Brate, James - Memoir of Reidsville

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY


Written by James Brate, 2006

I was 4 years old when my family moved to Reidsville to live with my grandparents. When I was a kid, pretty young, I used to stand out by the road and watch the horses and wagons go by. They would be carrying hay and lots of different stuff. There were lots of coaches too, some open and others enclosed. The stage coach from Rensselaerville used to stop here and pick up passengers for the ride down off the hill to Clarksville and beyond. People from around town would walk up here and wait for the stage.

James Brate

The house I live in now was bought by my grandfather in 1840. At one time the post office was located in the rear of the building and later an addition was put on which operated as a store. My grandfather died in 1918 and my mother and father continued to run the store for quite a while.

There used to be square dances in the front room of this house almost every Saturday night. There was a piano in one corner and a wood stove in another. My father played all kinds of instruments, violin, banjo and others.

Fred Flagler lived next door to this place, and he had a big barn and a blacksmiths shop just this side of the creek. On the other side of the creek was another big barn and a house next to that which was owned by my father’s Uncle. Next to that was a big hotel, with a tavern on the lower floor and many dances were held there. My father’s sister married a Conger and lived in the farm house across the road. They had a large farm with a lot of land. Frank Conger lived up on north road and had a big house and barn next to the cemetery.

I was about 13 or 14 when my mother bought the farm at the top of Cass hill. I continued to go to the one room schoolhouse in Reidsville. I had to walk two or three miles each way to school in the winter and the summer. As I recall there were about 15 or 20 other students in school while I was going there. I had to go to Westerlo school to take a test to pass the eighth grade, and that was the end of my education.

I helped farm when we lived down at the top of the hill. I use to plow all those big fields with a team of horses. We planted buckwheat and oats. The house where we lived is gone now, it must have burned down but I don’t remember. In the winter time we cut wood, I used to sell wood. Sometimes I would take a team and wagon to Westerlo or Rensselaerville to get a load of feed, that was quite a trip.

I went to work after I finished school, but I had worked some before that on the farm and working with my father in Albany setting curb stones. I helped set curbstones in Schenectady also and many times we would stay for two or three days at a time. My father’s name was Elmer Brate and when he would install curbstone, he was paid by the foot. Working with my father is how I got into the stone business, I set a lot of curbstones in my time, but eventually I opened a store in Clarksville.

My mother ran a gas station down at Mallory’s corners where she sold hot dogs and other stuff besides gas. We also had a gas station at the top of the New Salem hill opposite where Osterhout’s Restaurant was located. We sold all the gas to trucks and equipment used to build the Thatcher Park road, that was quite a few years ago.

Just below Reidsville was a large hotel built by the Brate family, called the Kushequa [Kushuqua]. There was a tavern on the bottom floor and a large dance hall on the upper level. Under the dance hall was an area where you could put your horse and wagon while you were there. Many of the workers in the quarries would stay there. The last party I remember there was when Flossie Klersey had her birthday party. I went to school with her, but then her name was Wideman.

I lived below the hill for many years but eventually returned to the family home about 35 years ago. I was born in 1914 so I will turn 92 years young this April.